Henley lands dream job, leads Sony Open

By Jason SobelJanuary 12, 2013, 2:12 am

HONOLULU – This is a story about a college kid who needed a job. It isn’t a unique story. Every kid rapidly approaching graduation at some point comes to the realization that the real world is calling, that keg parties and coeds are eventually going to give way to responsibility and maturity – a sad truth if there ever was one.

It was two years ago when this particular kid was a senior, on the verge of handing in the final paper of his college life. His career field already picked out, he went on a job interview with a big-time conglomeration. He knew it was a long shot. Knew he’d have to nail the interview and surpass every other applicant to get the gig.

These tales usually end with disappointment, but not this time. The kid floored ‘em. Beat out everybody else and cemented his spot among the employed as soon as he graduated. They say you could hear the celebration from miles away.

And it didn’t stop there. In his first year on the job, the kid wowed ‘em again. He was one of the best of the best at this level. Even before the year was over, it was clear. He was going to earn that big promotion.

So now this kid – still not far removed from keg parties and coeds – has landed his dream job. He’s in the exact position he’s wanted ever since he could remember. That sentiment alone would be enough to make some young men crumble. Maybe they’d become fearful of finding success in this role. Or maybe they get complacent, thinking they didn’t have to work as hard now that they’ve made it.

Not him, though. In his first two days on the job, competing against professionals who have served in this same capacity not for days or even months, but years upon years, the kid proves himself as the best of the best once again. Not for the long-term, not even for the impending future. But for these two days, at the very least, he is the best, based on the only result that really matters in this job.

This is the point in the story where details must be provided. The college from which the kid graduated was the University of Georgia. His chosen career field was professional golfer. The job interview took place at the Stadion Classic right there near campus, a tournament on the erstwhile Nationwide Tour which he won as an amateur, solidifying his home for the next year. That home was the same circuit, renamed that season to the Web.com Tour, and his first year included a pair of victories. The promotion was a call-up to the PGA Tour. And those two days, the first two days on the job where he bested everyone else in his profession, they came at the Sony Open.

The kid’s name is Russell Henley.


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It’s been exactly 614 days since that job interview – or, if you prefer, one year, eight months and three days. In that time, he’s gone from a college kid on the verge of facing the real world without a job to an established professional, one who just posted back-to-back rounds of 7-under 63 to claim the lead going into the weekend at the season’s first full-field event.

That fact hasn’t been lost on him. He isn’t taking his current position for granted.

“I’ve got some friends back home who have been to Atlanta for a job, have come back home and are still looking for what they want to do,” Henley explains. “I’ve got a guy who moved out west. I’m like, ‘What are you doing for a living?’ ‘I’m working at a ski resort.’ I’m like, ‘What do you do there?’ ‘I just put all the extra rented equipment up when they get done.’

“I’m thinking, I could never see myself doing that. It makes me definitely appreciate what I’m doing a lot more.”

Many others are appreciating what he’s doing, too. His two-round total of 126 is the lowest in Sony Open history and matches the lowest 36-hole score for a PGA Tour rookie since 1970. He’s carded 15 birdies and just one bogey. And he’s done it all with a smile on his face, like a kid still thrilled to have his dream job.

Henley may drop from the leaderboard. He certainly won’t always find the same success he’s had here so far. Just don’t expect that smile to fade anytime soon. For a kid not far removed from facing post-college life without employment, this is exactly where he wants to be.

It’s like he says: “I’m living the dream, doing what I want to do.”

This was a story about a college kid who needed a job. It wasn’t a unique story. Not until Russell Henley made it unique, turning an opportunity into a career. He isn’t about to forget that anytime soon.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.